SOUTH WHITLEY – They just had to make it interesting.
The Wawasee baseball team looked to have things under control heading into the bottom of the seventh inning with a four-run lead over West Noble in the first round of the IHSAA Sectional 21 Tournament at Whitko High School on Wednesday night. But the Warrior squad that has proven to have a flare for the dramatic made sure to give fans their money’s worth.
Wawasee worked itself out of a bases-loaded jam to claim a 6-5 win and win its first sectional contest since 2010.
“It wouldn’t be us if it wasn’t close,” said a relieved Wawasee head coach Brent Doty. “We always seem to let teams hang around but, hey, we’re happy right now.”
After beating West Noble just a day prior, Wawasee had an idea of what to expect from its first sectional opponent but in high school baseball, nothing is ever guaranteed.
Wawasee scored a pair of runs in the first, fifth and seventh innings to build a 6-2 lead over the Chargers. With the comfortable cushion heading into the bottom half of the inning, Doty elected to stick with his starter, Gage Fannin.
Fannin had pitched fine through six innings but West Noble was down to its final set of outs and put the senior under serious pressure in the seventh. The Chargers scored three runs with two outs on the board to pull within one at 6-5.
The pressure was mounting on Fannin and the Warrior defense but the senior was able to come through as record the final out for his team. West Noble’s Kyler Warble let his chance slip away as he popped up to Fannin with the bases loaded. Fannin, now 5-4 on the season, made the routine catch to seal the win for the Warriors and could breathe a little easier after the game.
“I was telling myself not to trip over the mound,” a smiling Fannin said about the game’s final out. “I didn’t have my ‘A’ game today, but the defense came through for me. When we play together like that, I really believe that we can be unstoppable.”
While Wawasee was not unstoppable throughout the entire game, one Warrior player was unstoppable to the Charger defense.
Gage Reinhard came through for his team every team he stepped into the batter’s box. The junior was 4-4 on the night with a double, two runs scored and an RBI. Reinhard also played a solid game at shortstop for the Warriors.
Reinhard was not the only Warrior to have success at the plate. Harrison Shortill came up big with his only plate appearance, recording an RBI. Kurtis Liston, Brett Carson and Nate Prescott also all had one RBI for the Warriors.
West Noble was never going to roll over for the Warriors. Levi Nelson sparked the Charger offense in the bottom of the second with two-run homer to dead center. Nelson was was 4-4 on the night. Waylon Richardson took the loss for the Chargers. Richardson recorded five strikeouts in four and two-thirds innings of work.
Wawasee (11-15) will face Fairfield on Saturday morning at 11 a.m. The Falcons eliminated Wawasee 14-4 in last year’s sectional.